Perhaps the most beautiful of all illuminated alchemical manuscripts, Splendor Solis (‘Splendour of the Sun’) was made in Germany in 1582. Throughout, the text is accompanied by a series of extremely rich alchemical illustrations.
The authorship of Splendor Solis is unknown, although it has often been attributed in error to Salomon Trismosin, who claimed to have conquered old age by rejuvenating himself by means of the Philosopher’s Stone. This page shows an alchemist, holding in his left hand a flask filled with a golden liquid. Out of the scroll emerges a black scroll, which is inscribed ‘Eamus quesitum quatuor elementorum naturas’ (‘Let us ask the four elements of nature’). Equally impressive are the drawings of flowers, birds and animals in the border, among them a peacock, a stag and an owl.
It may once have been owned by King Charles II (reigned 1660–1685) and entered the collections of the British Museum as part of the Harley sale in 1753. It was transferred to the British Library in 1973.
- Article by:
- Julian Harrison
Julian Harrison, lead curator of medieval historical manuscripts here at the Library, picks out collection items from our Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition
- Article by:
- Roger Highfield
Roger Highfield explores where modern chemistry all started, uncovering the early attempts to turn metals into gold with the Philosopher’s Stone and the quest to track down the secret to immortality.